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Food Wars

Zubin D’souza


In the 15th century civil war erupted in medieval England!

It was known as ‘The War of Roses’. The war was fought between two ancient and noble houses with a peerage that was unrivalled.

The House of Lancaster was represented by the red rose and the House of York carried the white rose as their emblem.

During one particular battle that took place in 1455 in Stubbins, Lancashire, the armies were forced to slow down their assaults because both sides ran out of ammunition.

Not wanting to give up on their pent up aggression, the soldiers resorted to a completely unique battle tactic.

They shunned traditional methods like their crossbows and broadswords and instead turned around to raid their pantry carts.

Each side then proceeded to chuck their traditional specialties at their opponents. The troops from Lancashire threw black pudding while those from York threw their famous Yorkshire pudding.

In retrospect, it feels quite weird that soldiers marched into battle knowing that their lives depended on it and chose to carry more snacks than ammunition.

History makes no mention of the number of casualties that the pudding battering achieved but it has definitely made a mark in history.

This wasn’t the first or last time that food was the epicentre of a battle.

I definitely am not including the absolutely juvenile school cafeteria food fights which are a total waste of food and cleaning supplies.

During the last week of August, the town of Bunol in Spain turns into an absolutely unique battleground. People travel from all over the world to participate in a day-long fight that uses overripe tomatoes as missiles.

This festival replicates the original that began with a dispute between two farmers. Alliances were quickly altered and lines were drawn in the sand. At some point in time, a collection of rotting tomatoes was added into the mix and I am guessing it was the missing ingredient for the happy-ever-after.

The town called a truce but the fight continued on the anniversary each year much to the delight of the townsfolk and the rest of the world.

Another Spanish town called Vilanova I la Geltru hosts a massive food fight before the Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of the Catholic Lenten season. Residents smear each other with sticky meringue-based confections in an aptly named festival called ‘La Merengada’.

In the idyllic Indian state of Goa, a fight over land rights was fomenting on the island of Divar between the colonising Portuguese and the residents. The rulers demarcated certain land parcels by planting flags which were then promptly uprooted by the rebellious natives. The government decided to get a bit heavy-handed and they were promptly repelled by homemade pea shooters that were skilfully crafted by the locals using young bamboo reeds and a local seasoning berry called ‘tefla’.

On a fateful night of 1602, the Swiss city of Geneva was about to become the victim of a stealthy night attack by rival Savoyard forces.

Commanded by the Duke of Savoy, the Savoyards scaled the city wall and under cloaks of darkness moved swiftly towards their vantage point from where they would launch their surprise attack.

Luckily for the Genevans, Catherine Cheynel also known as Mere Royaume had just finished preparing a large cauldron of soup for her family.

Alerted by the commotion under her window, she quickly launched the contents of her soup cauldron which surprised the attackers as well as killed one of the enemy troops.

The enemies were repelled; the city celebrated and repeated the festival each year. The festival is called the ‘Fete de l’Escalade’ and it involves smashing a chocolate cauldron filled with goodies.

Not all food wars involve armies.

In the city of Ghent in Belgium, a pharmacist in the process of preparing a cough medicine ended up creating a sweet called cuberdons.

The sweet quickly got famous and started getting sold in market stalls across the city.

On one particular occasion, two vendors happened to set up shop right next to each other. In the eagerness to sell their wares, they tried to run the competitor down. Things quickly got out of hand, fists were flying and on one occasion a bucket of water was involved as well.

Police had to be called in to maintain order and an uneasy truce holds rather shakily.

Although the fight wasn’t large enough to turn into an alluring festival with international appeal, you can still get your kicks if you praise the rival’s wares to the opponent!

This tends to make the Pudding War in the Battle of the Roses seem sensible in comparison.

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